hap·pi·ness /ˈhapēnəs/ noun — the state of being happy. Synonyms: contentment, pleasure, contentedness, satisfaction, cheerfulness, cheeriness, merriment, merriness, gaiety, joy, joyfulness, joyousness, joviality, jollity, jolliness, glee, blitheness, carefreeness gladness, delight, good spirits, high spirits, light heartedness, good cheer, well-being, enjoyment, felicity.
Money and Happiness
What is the relationship between money and happiness? Is money a cause, and happiness an effect? Or is money evil, and a hindrance to happiness?
Most people have heard contradictory assertions about money, ranging from “money makes people happier” to “money is the root of all evil.” Upon close examination, one can see the relationship between the two.
Money is a medium of exchange for values.
A person produces values and exchanges those values for money. The more values one produces and exchanges with others, the more money he or she can accumulate.
Then the person can use this money to produce more values, and purchase values from others. This is a very simplified explanation of wealth production.
What about happiness? Happiness is an effect. The cause of happiness is the achievement of one’s core values.
Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization. These guiding principles dictate behavior and can help people understand and companies determine if they are on the right path towards fulfilling their goals.
Say a person consciously values an enriching love relationship. That person then prepares herself to experience such a relationship. Later, she meets someone that she admires, and they initiate a relationship.
That relationship then develops into a growing love relationship. She may not explicitly grasp the dynamics involved, but she feels happy.
Happiness is an effect. The cause of happiness is achieving one’s values.
This presumes that a person has chosen a hierarchy of values. If a person holds money as a high value and earns it, he or she will experience happiness.
The same is true of all values, such as self-esteem, romantic love, and aesthetic pleasures. Ultimately, however, happiness along with prosperity, and romantic love, depends on one fundamental condition.
Without this condition, one will not experience abiding happiness, prosperity, or romantic love. What is that condition?
That condition is “productive accountability”.
ac·count·a·bil·i·ty /əˌkoun(t)əˈbilədē/ noun — the fact or condition of being accountable. Synonyms: responsibility, liability, answerability.
No matter how much money or material abundance we might have, productive work is essential to our happiness. Even if a person wins a billion-dollar lottery, that person would need to engage in productive accountable activities to experience abiding happiness.
Why would even a billionaire need to engage in productive accountable activities to achieve abiding happiness?
Wouldn’t that billionaire be able to buy his/her way to happiness?
Wouldn’t that person derive happiness from the unlimited access and consumptions to material goods?
The reason every adult human being needs to engage in productive accountable work is for physical and psychological survival. Higher causes or altruistic reasons or duty to one’s family, community, or nation are a bonus, but at the most basic level — we need to create to survive.
We don’t engage in productive work because of tacit or expressed obligations to others. The only reason to engage in productive work is for our own physical and psychological survival.
In the case of the billionaire, or any individual who is financially independent, he or she still needs to be productive to experience happiness. The individual who becomes financially independent, no longer works for physical survival. The individual’s material needs are already taken care of. He or she works for psychological fulfillment.
Productive work can deliver the self-esteem that is needed for psychological survival. Sexual conquests cannot deliver the self-esteem needed for psychological survival. Neither can praying, hobbies, manipulating others, drug use, criminal scores, killing, or any other activity.
In the long run, the avoidance of productive work leads to the subconscious thought, “I wish I was dead.” It causes neurosis!
Productive accountable work is the foundation of happiness.
Productivity is also the foundation of prosperity. Productive work is indispensable to human beings. Producing more values than one consumes is the essence of a productive accountable and happy life.
Equally important is that no one can dictate to others what work to engage in. For some people’s productive work might consist of landscaping, painting, composing music, or writing. For others, these may simply be hobbies.
Others might choose teaching, healing, or engineering as their means of productive work. The guiding principle here is that productive work requires a long-range perspective, rational goals, a focused mind, and consistent effort.
We need to approach productive work rationally to experience abiding prosperity and happiness. This applies to all productive work, including janitorial work, sales, artwork, building a business, or any other productive activity, including philanthropy.
If productive work is the foundation for all abiding happiness and earned prosperity, and essentially everyone wants to be happy and prosperous, why doesn’t everyone engage in productive work?
There is a two-part answer to this question.
The first part deals with a deeply personal matter. That personal matter is a choice every human being on the planet must make. Each person must make the choice to exert the consistent effort that productive work demands. In essence, each individual human being must make the following choice: to exert consistent effort or default to laziness.
The second part of the answer is a cultural issue. The culture in the upside-down command and control world cleverly works to foster laziness, co-dependency on others, incompetence, and criminal thinking.
A lot of people want to live like a billionaire without earning it, and just have a good old time consuming more than they produce. This unfortunately does not create self-happiness for the long haul.
The command-and-control culture subtly spreads a dependency attitude in the minds of people. As people absorb this cleverly promoted attitude throughout their life, they subconsciously accept it.
People begin to think it is “cool” to take it easy, sit back, and let others do the work. Those who exert the constant high effort needed for value production are labeled as uncool, overachievers, workaholics, or other disparaging names.
Treat People with Dignity
When I was a child, I depended on my parents to survive. As I became an adult, I learned to depend on myself. I was lucky. My father taught me the value of being productive as a teenager. While my friends were having a good time partying, I was being taught the value of money by contributing to the mortgage, and household expenses.
My mom and dad didn’t need the money, and at the time, I could not stand my father for asking me to contribute like 80% of my part-time hard-earned money towards living expenses. I was 17. Years later, I thanked my dad for teaching me responsibility, but more importantly for letting me earn my fulfillment in life and grow to appreciate the importance of self-reliance, and productive work.
My dad treated me like an adult early in life, in order for me to become one.
When you treat people like adults who can take care of things, you give them the freedom they need to break away from co-dependency. You give them the freedom to find their own way in life. You give them the ability to earn their own fulfillment. You give them the ability to create happiness in their lives. You give people their dignity.
This is not just a theory. There are companies today who have embraced freedom at work, and who treat employees as co-creators, as adults. The results are companies outperforming the S&P by a factor of 10X and very low attrition rates.
At Nearsoft, (now Encora) for example, we have the lowest attrition of any company in our industry, because we’ve been treating our co-creators as adults for over a decade. Our people are engaged, free, super productive and happy.
Freedom to be productive on our own terms leads to a happy life — it’s that simple.
Get Out of the Funk
Productivity will get you out of a funk too. I recently got a call from a member of my men’s circle of eight years ago. He shared with me how he didn’t make consistent effort to being productive over the past 40 working years of his life.
As a result, he is not in a favorable place in his life right now. He is going through a divorce, is nursing an injury, isn’t working because of his injury and isn’t earning a living. He is living in the back of a construction job site, while his stuff is in storage.
I truly feel for him because he is being hit by a perfect storm. He shared with me how guilty he feels needing help, when a family member is dealing with stage three cancer. I simply replied to him: “Your perfect storm feels to you like you are fighting stage three cancer, doesn’t it?” Everything we experience in life is relative to how we perceive things and our state of consciousness.
I talk about my own perfect storm in my new book “Emotionally Aware Leadership”, and how it was a gift in my life. A wake-up call.
After hearing him pitying himself, and shaming himself, and being a victim, I simply asked him: If you went to sleep and woke up tomorrow with clear vision of what you need to do, what would that be?
By sharing with him my own perfect storm experience I was able to help him realize he isn’t the only man in the world, who has had to reinvent himself.
After more conversation, we agreed on him getting his living situation in order first. Just the sense of him having to be productive towards a goal, instead of sitting around feeling sorry for himself, gave him a needed boost to feel a sense of purpose.
That sense of purpose lifted his spirits. This brings me to the final point I wish to leave you with.
If you feel stuck, not knowing what to do, being lazy in your own wallow…. feeling a little down on yourself, feeling a little less than…. the first thing you need to do, is get into action. The moment you get back to being productive, is the moment you start feeling happy again.
*Originally published at tulliosiragusa.com.
Tullio Siragusa is an expert level Certified Life Coach, a pioneer of disruptive technologies, an emotional intelligence (EQ) thought leader, futurist, speaker, and author. For the past 30 years, Tullio has built world class leadership teams in technology companies and startups. Tullio currently serves as Chief Strategy Officer at Nearsoft, he co-produces and hosts DojoLIVE! a platform that gives voice to emerging technology luminaries. He also hosts Rant & Grow, an entertaining and heart-centered reality podcast where each episode explores people’s personal blockages and how to powerfully move forward with careers, relationships, and self-realization by developing healthy habits. As a founding member of Radical, a social justice movement, Tullio is a strong supporter of human-dignity in all aspects of life, including freedom in the workplace.
Image courtesy of ELEVATE.